A weekend away in the Channel Islands where culinary wonderment and comfort won hands down. Huge thanks goes out to the Jersey Hotel Club and Spa, Chef Steve Smith and our own South African Pastry Chef, Ellen de Jager.
An island, a massage and a meal to die for. And it’s all in the British Isles at Jersey’s luxury Club Hotel and Spa. With an easy hour’s flight from Gatwick you are taken to this British crown dependency which in my opinion has been completely underestimated as a weekend getaway.
Jersey is a coastal town reprieve that gives you purity and taste in its character, a tax haven additive and of course the Michelin starred restaurants unpretentiously adorning their coveted titles. What more could you want?
Arriving at the Club Hotel and Spa situated in the seaside capital of Saint Helier, I quickly realised how this hotel really does have an unrivalled location. Beaches boasting no end are within walking distance and nothing is more than a twenty minute drive away.
With neutral walls and natural light streaming in through the high glass windows, the hotel makes use of abstract touches to adorn an artistic flair that is subtly exciting. You will find yourself immersed in a modern art painting, brushing over a bold rug and wondering what other unique sculpture will sit itself upon a table top.
The rooms and amenities suit your needs for a bit of shut-eye, but it was The Spa’s deep tissue massage and gastronomic epiphany experienced at Bohemia Restaurant that made it just so unforgettable.
It goes without saying that a full body deep tissue massage is on anyone’s wish list. But what reigned supreme for me was that finally a couple’s massage had us lying next to each other while we checked every 5 minutes we were still awake. With a few soft whispers of the therapists to ensure we were still on a cathartic journey, it was also a mindful tact to open up the bellies for what was to follow. A culinary wonderment.
Starting at Bohemia Bar, as is always necessary, we marvelled at the knowledge of the barman and flair with which each cocktail was made and served.
Feeling quite classy and a little giddy from the romanticism surrounding you, it was time to taste.
Bohemia Bar and Restaurant is an acclaimed Michelin star restaurant worthy of the world’s best and every accolade. Head Chef Steve Smith has managed to constantly test the boundaries of flavour fascination. Every sensory taste gave way to enquiry. It left you more and more dumbfounded at the ingredient’s manipulation and multiple personalities they seemed to take on.
Opting in for both the Tasting Menu and the Pescatarian Menu, the experience began.
The amuse bouches arrived and set the intriguing standard. The shot glass was a soft blue cheese that was in no way overpowering as the shaved crisps neutralised the hit. The pork croquette gave you a rich and sultry bite, while the red mullet with squid ink crisp and roe sent you into a back and forth debate. Which was more delicious?
Beetroot, verjus and hibiscus. This was served with salmon sashimi making it light and fresh. There was a sense of simplicity in its classiness as it cleansed the taste buds.
The butter honestly looked so good I thought it was a dessert. Struggling to restrain myself, I went for it. It was salted seaweed butter and oh my, it melted.
Butternut and parmesan, nasturtium and quail egg. The play on hot versus cold temperatures ignited the marriage between the butternut, egg and pistachio cream.
Smoked haddock, quail egg and nasturtium. Another clever and admiringly risky juxtaposition of temperatures. The smooth fish and pistachio cream gave way to the encouragement to not wait and let the hot and cold cancel each other out.
Oyster, cucumber, dill and caviar. A fascinating combination of poached oysters and cucumber. The flavours on their own seemed to be naturally intensified.
Foie gras cream, sea buckthorn and kumquat, duck salad and pistachio. Speechless. I once joked with friends about what items of clothing you would sacrifice for the love of a dish before you. In this case, all of them!
Crab custard and tart, mango and coriander. A perfect fresh cleanse. What would happen if we made that into a crab custard creme brûlée?
Scallop, celeriac and smoked eel, apple and truffle. With the addition of the crispy kale, this was a signature dish.
Pigeon and smoked leg, beetroot, black pudding and kale. I have never tasted pigeon cooked to such a perfect complexion. Rich and buttery. Sweet and smokey.
Sea bass, mussels and clams, kohlrabi and sea herbs. A delicate seaside affair.
Peach bellini. An artwork in itself.
Raspberry, tonka and tarragon. It’s all about the fruit.
Popcorn and caramel. Sweet, salty and intense in all the right ways.
Perhaps I overindulged, but did so in absolute awe. Like I said – a culinary wonderment.
And what’s more, it just doesn’t end here. On the other side of Steve Smith is his wife, Head Pastry Chef Ellen de Jager. This dynamic duo has made sweet and savoury a never ending work of art.
Her Afternoon Tea is curated with such flair and creativity. Alongside a glass of champagne, the tiers of your cake stand shine with treats almost too beautiful to eat. But when you do, be prepared. Be sure to go on an empty stomach, because this is a tea that delights in rich flavours and moreish addiction.
It’s all about inspiration. We managed to chat to Ellen, a South African like myself and so what followed was a huge a sense of pride and admiration.
How can you stand out in this rapidly iterative industry? I think that it is important to just be yourself and not lose yourself in this crazy world. You need to stick to what you believe in and just do the best you can.
What daily habit has been most effective in your life? Healthy living. In such a stressful industry we need to look after ourselves and our bodies. Eat clean, exercise and be a warrior not a worrier!
Who would you like to bake for? I would have loved to have had the opportunity to cook for my Gran, as she inspired me to cook.
First word that comes to mind when I say Foodie? Epicure
What’s something you are unwilling to compromise on? Quality of ingredients. Always try and use the best and freshest ingredients that you can afford. It really makes a difference with the final product.
If you could be any ingredient, what would you be? Flour! It’s basic but so important and is the building block of most baked goods.
What are some of your favourite flavour combinations? I love working with fresh flavours such as yuzu, milk, milk chocolate and Armagnac, raspberry, tonka bean and tarragon. I always like working with nutty flavours like Hazelnut, Pear, Dulcey and Xante (pear brandy).
What’s your favourite ‘go to’ meal at home? Steak and Salad EVERYTIME!! I’m South African…I need my protein! LOL!
What’s always in your fridge? Eggs, meat, salad, wine and beer.
What is your worst nightmare of a dish? I hate working with sugar work because I’m always burning myself!
What has been the highlight of your career? There has been a few to be honest but a proud moment was when my dessert got listed at number 6 in the Sunday Times Food List.
You and Steve seem to be a dynamic duo of savoury and sweet, what’s the secret? How do you manage your space and work ethic together? Do passions collide? It’s a very fine balance to separate your work life and home life… but I think we have mastered the art of it now. We don’t talk about work at home, we try to have one day off together and do something like go on a date night and then we have separate days off so we can have time alone with our friends or just to take a break.
What do you miss, if anything, about South Africa? I miss almost everything about South Africa!!!! It’s my home, it’s where I grew up and where my family is. I miss the beauty of it.. and the SUN!!! Glorious sun!!!
What would you do if you accidentally burnt all your pastries before an event Is that even possible! I mean what can you do… run!
What’s next? You never know what’s around the corner, but it never stops us from wanting to see it… The world is full of possibilities!!!!
So all in all, what Bohemia has done is unrivalled and ever changing. It’s frankly all quite astonishing and so to the Jersey Hotel Club and Spa, I will be back and you are most definitely set for life.